5 Facts About Disney Legend Sterling Holloway

by | Jan 4, 2022 | Disney History, Disney Legends, Disney Movies

Learn more about Disney Legend Sterling Holloway, born 1/4/1905.

When you think of the most iconic voice actors to act in Disney animated classics, which names come to mind? For many of us, Disney Legend Sterling Holloway will always be one of the most highly regarded vocal performers.

With a massive catalog of over 150 films and countless other productions, Sterling had a profound influence on the industry—so it’s no wonder that he was inducted as a Disney Legend. Only the most noteworthy contributors to the Walt Disney legacy are given this honor. 

If you don’t know much about the life behind the voice, here are five facts about Disney Legend Sterling Holloway.

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1. A Natural Performer

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Disney Legend Sterling Holloway. Photo courtesy of D23

Sterling exhibited a gift for performance even at a very young age—and he started pursuing that vocation as early as he could. He was so talented that he was the youngest student to ever be accepted into The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City.

When he was a teenager, he learned a lot from his time attending the performing arts conservatory, making friends with fellow student Spencer Tracey in the process. 

After graduating in 1923, he joined the New York Theatre Guild and performed in live shows for a time before heading to the west coast to pursue a career in the film industry.

2. Who Am I This Time?

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Holloway voiced Mr. Stork in Dumbo. Screenshot courtesy of Disney

Before his breakout performance as Mr. Stork in Dumbo (1941), Sterling had already been in Hollywood for 15 years, working tirelessly on every gig he was given—mostly small roles in glamorous silver screen flicks. 

His early work was before talkies existed, with early roles in silent pictures like The Battling Kangaroo in 1926 and Casey at the Bat in 1927. By 1933, he was appearing in as many as a dozen films in a single year, though he went uncredited in many of his early roles.

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3. A Pleasure to Serve

Although Sterling had spent a decade building his career in Hollywood, he was willing to put his busy acting career aside and enlist in the US Army when his country needed him. 

In the summer of 1942, Sterling signed up to serve during World War II—but in his own special way. Instead of fighting, the actor entertained, joining the Special Services.

During that time, he helped develop a military-themed theatre show called Hey Rookie. The show’s run in Los Angeles garnered around $350,000 for the Army Relief Fund. 

His career resumed in 1944 when he served as the narrator of “The Cold-Blooded Penguin” segment in Disney’s The Three Caballeros.

4. Return to Wonderland

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The Cheshire Cat is one of Holloway’s most memorable roles. Screenshot courtesy of Disney

One of Halloway’s most famous roles is that of the crafty, conniving Cheshire Cat in the 1951 Walt Disney animated film Alice in Wonderland. But that wasn’t the first time that Sterling had been in wonderland. 

Almost two decades earlier, way before he had begun doing voice acting for Walt Disney studios, Sterling appeared in the 1933 live-action adaptation of Alice in Wonderland distributed by Paramount Pictures. 

He briefly appeared in the black-and-white movie as a frog footman—though you may not recognize him, as his head is covered in a massive, bug-eyed mask that makes him look like a walking, talking polliwog.

In this version, the Cheshire Cat was played by Richard Arlen, best known as the star of the Academy Award-winning Wings (1927).

5. Silly Old Bear

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Winnie the Pooh was Holloway’s favorite role. Photo courtesy of D23

By the time he retired in 1977, Holloway had amassed an amazing catalog of work. Over the course of his career, Sterling performed in more than 150 films and 40 television shows, as well as numerous other productions. 

His last work for Walt Disney studios was for the anthology film The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. It was a fitting conclusion to his time at Disney, being that the role of Winnie the Pooh was Sterling’s favorite of all the work he’d done with the studio. 

Remembering Disney Legend Sterling Holloway

Sterling’s monumental career over a half-century led to him becoming the first voice actor to achieve Disney Legend status. The induction ceremony took place in 1991—a year before his death in 1992. At the event, Holloway was escorted to the stage by the Pooh himself. 

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Sterling Holloway and Winnie the Pooh at Disneyland Resort. Photo courtesy of Disney Parks Blog

Sterling’s massive repertoire extended beyond movies and television to include radio shows, records, and television commercials. If there was a form of media that required vocal work, you can bet that Sterling left his fingerprints (or vocal cords?) on it.

Which is your favorite character that Sterling Holloway voiced? 

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Posts by Aaron Widmar

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Aaron Widmar is a lifelong fan of the artistic and emotional power of animation to tell stories. He was raised on Disney VHS tapes as a child and even as an adult still loves re-watching his favorites. Aaron is a professional writer in a variety of fields, including the automotive industry. Although he and his wife Vicki don’t travel to Walt Disney World as often as they’d like, he can escape to the Disney-themed room of their house whenever he needs creative inspiration.
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Authored by
Aaron Widmar

Aaron Widmar is a lifelong fan of the artistic and emotional power of animation to tell stories. He was raised on Disney VHS tapes as a child and even as an adult still loves re-watching his favorites. Aaron is a professional writer in a variety of fields, including the automotive industry. Although he and his wife Vicki don’t travel to Walt Disney World as often as they’d like, he can escape to the Disney-themed room of their house whenever he needs creative inspiration.
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